Beit Iba, Tue 26.8.08, Afternoon
Beit Iba, 15:30 There are 7 vehicles on line, most of them big trucks. 3 detainees at the checkpoint; the commander said they tried to sneak past. Classes began again and many students are waiting at the turnstiles, although bus passengers weren't made to get off and were checked in place.An elderly man goes through the humanitarian lane, carrying with some difficulty a large, old TV set. He's asked to put it down to be checked. Eventually they let him through without taking it apart. Things here are tense – last Saturday, they said, two bombs were discovered, carried by youths who went through. As a result, some of the soldiers are busy looking for people trying to sneak past, chasing after them and bringing them over to the detainee area.
16:45 There are already 7 detainees. When we ask the commander when they'll be released, he says that he'll hold them for at least three hours. We gave the DCO representative water to bring to them.
We want to praise Adam, the DCO representative, who helped a great deal to ease the lines. Particularly when an elderly man wanted to go through with three children who weren't his, and a 14 year old boy who came by himself – he helped get them through without complications.
People standing in the long lines crowd against the turnstile from time to time. It isn't working. The female MP shouts into the microphone, soldiers push the people back. Sometimes the MP herself comes out to ease the pressure. The problem is that the people standing in the rear push against those in front of them – and there are many people in the rear. We timed how long it took someone to get through – half an hour. The pressure builds up when its crowded and hot.When the turnstile gets stuck there's a pause – sometimes a long one – in the inspections. Also, apparently, as punishment, and then the line gets longer.
There are also pauses in checking the vehicles because there's a shortage of soldiers, since some of them are patrolling the area looking for people trying to sneak past. The lines grow longer. What's worst is when an airconditioned bus full of passengers has to wait with its motor off and doors closed until soldiers can be found to inspect it. A bus like this from Nablus waited at the checkpoint for 15 minutes.All those waiting watch an elderly couple forced to unload and open dozens of shoe boxes which they had loaded onto a cart from a taxi that came from Nablus, and were transferring to a taxi on the other side of the checkpoint.
We also witnessed an argument between a soldier and Adam, the DCO representative. The soldier complained that Adam interfered when he helped Palestinians pass through more quickly. Adam replied that the soldier is interfering with him. As it happened, that was the same soldier who greeted us cynically, "Checkpoint women?" Some time earlier we welcomed the fact that the army installed water faucets at the entrance to the checkpoint. It turns out that they're not working. There's no water there, and it's very hot today.